Time to dust off the old crystal ball! With spring training getting underway this week, there is plenty to look forward to and even more to predict.
This is the prefect time of year for the fortune teller inside of us to come out, because we have a blank slate. Nothing has happened this year. And with just a hunch and an Internet connection, we can look at past trends and predict what is going to happen this year.
The Toronto Blue Jays made a number of moves that transformed their starting lineup through offseason signings and trades. Expectations are high as a team. But which new players will live up to they hype?
Like the title font on your elementary school book report, it is time to get bold!
The Cy Young Award has been awarded to the best pitcher in the MLB since 1956. In 1967, the MLB adopted a format that hands out two Cy Young awards. One for the American League, and one for the National League. That means from 1967 until the present there have been 90 awards handed out.
Sixteen pitchers have won the award multiple times. Of those 16, five have won it in both leagues. Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry are the only ones to accomplish that feat in the 56-year history of the award.
After this season, there could be one more name on the list. Last years AL winner, David Price is still pitching in Tampa Bay. So it is up to R.A. Dickey to add his name to the record books.
Pitching consistently at such a high level for two straight years is no small feat, but it has been done eight times previously. Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson have each won four straight Cy Young Awards in their careers. So, what’s a measly two straight?
Dickey’s critics will say that a domed stadium is knuckleball kryptonite. And even if he can pitch decently in the Rogers Centre, he will not be able to dominate batters like he did last year. His supporters will quote Dickey’s start in 2012 at Tropicana Field where he threw a one-hit complete game with 12 strikeouts.
Dickey has a very legitimate shot at becoming only the sixth player in MLB history to win a Cy Young in both the AL and NL. He would become the first player to do it in back-to-back years.
One of the only position battles for the Blue Jays this season will be at second base. Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis are about to duke it out for regular playing time.
Many have Izturis penciled in with the upper hand heading into the season. Bonifacio would slide into the equally important role of utility man. In past seasons, Bonifacio has shown he is a competent fielder around the diamond. Over the course of his career, he has spent time at most positions.
Bonifacio will be counted on at second base heavily, as well as the corner outfield positions when John Gibbons decides to give Melky Cabrera or Jose Bautista a day off. He has played third base, shortstop and center field during his career, and he may be counted on again this year to step in at a moments notice.
Bonifacio could see time at those six positions, and he is just an Adam Lind-slump away from becoming a part-time designated hitter as well. Look for Emilio Bonifacio to cement his status as a super utility man by spending time playing seven different positions this season.
Mark Buehrle was acquired from the Miami Marlins in the blockbuster deal that also netted Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Emilio Bonifacio for the Blue Jays.
Buehrle has won 13 games and pitched at least 200 innings in each of the last four seasons. He will look to build on that success in his new home. Although he has at least 10 wins for 12 straight MLB seasons, I predict his string of double-digit wins will be a thing of the past.
The 33-year-old will start the season as the number three starter, according to manager John Gibbons. This is high praise from his manager, especially before spring training has even started. This spot was earned on experience, but it won’t be a representation of the Blue Jays five most effective pitchers by the year’s end.
The Blue Jays will be able to overcome some hiccups in their rotation and still make the playoffs due to the depth and offense that they boast. A pitcher’s record is not always indicative of his performance as strings of bad luck and no decisions often factor in to a win-loss record.
Will Buehrle’s undersized win total hinder the Blue Jays greatly? No. Will they be able to overcome their number three starter winning just eight or nine games? Yes. Not everything will go perfectly for the Blue Jays, and I predict Buehrle’s stats will be the ones to suffer.
In November 2005, MLB instituted a tougher penalty against players using banned substances. A 10-day ban for first time users was replaced by a 50-game ban. For second-time users, the 30-day ban was replaced by a 50-game suspension and a player caught using a banned substance a third time now receives a lifetime ban from baseball.
On August 15 of 2012, Melky Cabrera was suspended for using a banned substance in accordance with the MLB drug policy. He was suspended 50 games and agreed to terminate contract extension talks with his then employer, the San Francisco Giants. Cabrera was enjoying a career year at the plate, with a batting average of .346 and 60 RBI. What was slated to be a huge offseason contract for Cabrera was nullified by his positive test.
The Toronto Blue Jays took a chance when they signed Cabrera to a two-year deal, hoping they can underpay for a veteran in exchange for a giving a player a second chance. The plot of Cabrera’s drug use thickened this offseason when a report linked Cabrera to the use of banned substances at a Florida anti-aging clinic.
Since the implementation of the stiffer penalties, three players have tested positive multiple times. In 2007, Neifi Pérez tested positive twice in the same year. In 2011, Manny Ramirez received a 100-game suspension for his second positive test, and in 2012 Guillermo Mota received the same treatment.
Although the penalties are stiff and have appeared to curb the rampant steroid use that once plagued the league as little as 15 years ago, players are still testing positive. And some even twice.
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